First Taste: Ore

When the only thing you know about a new restaurant walking in for the first time is that Taylor Hicks is part owner, that’s generally not a good sign. But thankfully, Birmingham’s most famous native (sorry, Charles Barkley, Courteney Cox, Bo Jackson, and Ruben Studdard) seems to be a mostly silent partner in Ore, a new restaurant that opened up in Open Door Cafe’s former location.

The space has an excellent pedigree; Open Door served one of the best brunches in town and its New Orleans-style food was amazing. I’m still stumped as to why it ever closed. That also means Ore has big shoes to fill.

I went on the place’s second night in business, which usually means lots of kinks are left to work out, but Ore seems to have things pretty well together. We started with the fried green tomatoes, which come topped with a dark-roux crawfish etouffee. This isn’t exactly ground-breaking Southern cuisine, but Ore does it very well. The tomatoes are nice and tart, and the crisp coating sticks well, while the etouffee is well-seasoned if lacking a bit in crawfish content.

I had the fish of the day, snapper, which was very, well, adequate. The fish was cooked and seasoned well, and the vegetables were very fresh, but it wasn’t mind-blowing. The soup it came with, broccoli-cheese, was super creamy and rich, not necessarily the best choice for a warm spring evening, but that’s my own fault. I could have picked a salad.

Nadria went with an app and a side instead of an entree, which turned out to be a great idea. The coconut shrimp, topped with sweet chili sauce, are a tropical delight, super-fresh and fried perfectly just like the tomatoes.

However, the real standout was the cheese grits. The shrimp and grits from  Crook’s Corner and braised pork cheeks and grits from Dyron’s Lowcountry notwithstanding, I don’t really like grits. Even when they’re doused with butter and cheese. But Ore’s grits, honestly, were the best I’ve ever tried. That may be due to the fact that they’re about half butter, cream, and cheese, so I wouldn’t advise eating them every day, but hot damn, those are some delicious grits.

Our dining companion ordered the shrimp po’boy. Just like the coconut shrimp, the shellfish were extremely fresh and cooked just right. The house-made aioli was nice and spicy-mustard-y, and the chips on the side were great. It wasn’t really much of a sandwich, though. The bread it came on was a bit too narrow and tall to actually fold over and pick up. Still, very good shrimp to eat with a fork.

Dessert was probably the most disappointing part of the meal. There wasn’t anything memorable about the strawberry shortcake, even if it wasn’t a complete disaster. If the rest of the menu is already essentially fully realized, the dessert choices are gonna need some polishing.

In a town filled with great Southern restaurants, Ore is yet another good choice. Its menu doesn’t do anything particularly innovative or modern, which may end up being the spot’s downfall, as it’s kinda hidden away in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Mountain Brook. But the decor is a nice breath of fresh air. It’s all reclaimed wood and bare bulbs, with iconic Birmingham images printed on the walls. The coolest touch is this famous old-timey photo of the Magic City sign, blown up to cover an entire wall next to the bar.

Even in its early stages, Ore is well worth a trip, though I’d love to see it break out of the Southern-food ghetto and make something both iconically original and defiantly Alabamian. Given the chef’s chops with the traditional stuff, that just might be possible, and this town is absolutely ready for it.

Ore on Urbanspoon

11 thoughts on “First Taste: Ore”

  1. I’m excited to try this new place! I don’t know if it’s rumor or not but I heard Open Door had some issues with a liquor license and that’s why they closed.

  2. Don’t know about you, but if the only thing I new about a new restaurant is that Taylor Hicks was part owner, it would be a very GOOD thing to me. It’s all perspective. The food looks marvelous and i hope one day to get down there to eat there.

  3. Sounds great. I believe the “silent partner” will be hands on and will definitly bring many people there.
    But as always the food and the decor is the real draw and sounds like they are off to a good start.

  4. Well, had to start off reading this with a bit of an eye roll. If there’s a man on the planet more unnecessarily disrespected than Mr. Hicks, I’d like to know. The blah, blah, blah, I hate Taylor Hicks, yada, yada, yada is old, tired and boring.

    Other than that dig, the restaurant sounds great. I’ve been to the Open Door several times and have heard some nice things about Ore from some family who have had a chance to eat there. I will definitely be checking out the restaurant on my next visit down this summer.

    By the way, he may not be as silent a partner as you think.

    1. If the man is not cooking my food or greeting me at the door when I come in, he’s a silent partner in my book. There’s nothing at Ore that gives you any clue Taylor Hicks is involved in any way.

      And I wasn’t making a dig at the man or his music, but Taylor Hicks is not somebody I know of as a master restauranteur. Celebrity-owned restaurants generally aren’t so great (c.f. the horrid Margaritaville chain), but this one seems different.

  5. Well, it did sound a little like a
    But I think I get what you mean, some restaurants owned by celebs do seem to be there to promote them. Maybe even pics on the wall. Not a good thing for a really good restaurant I would agree.
    I do know that TH is a great connoisseur of fine restaurants and seems to have a good head for business so I think he would have better taste than that. And he is just one of several partners. It is possible you might see him or a one of his friends there playing a little music from time to time. But I think he will be mostly silent and you are right, I think that is for the best.

  6. Had an early dinner this week at Ore and really enjoyed it. The staff was great, very friendly and attentive. I had the Coconut Shrimp and a side of some saute veggies. Probably the best Coconut Shrimp I’ve ever had or at least as far as I can remember. My husband had the Angus Burger and Homemade Chips and said it was good. We will definitely come back any time we’re in the Birmingham area. Good luck, Taylor and friends, in your new venture.

  7. I am going to have to try this restaurant out. I am a huge fan of grits–although my waist won’t thank me if they’re full of butter.

  8. I’d like to try this place soon! Loved Open Door Cafe and I’m sad to hear it’s closed. But I’ll try buttery, cheesy grits any day!

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